Skindiver / Scuba Diver / Sea Hunt

Atari 2600

Review by Joe Santulli



Graphics: 1

Sound: 1

Gameplay: 1

Overall: 1

Pure crapSkindiver does to faulty game design what the Leaning Tower of Pisa did for faulty architectural design. Slight difference: this game doesn’t so much "lean" as it does topple into a huge pile of rubble. And there are people underneath when it happens. And they’re orphans. Handicapped ones. Some will question why I would spend the time to sit down with this game, explore it thoroughly, and report back to the masses my findings. Why - they will wonder - for such a complete and utter piece of trash. And that, my friends, is precisely the reason why I'm doing it. To provide one final warning to anyone who may not have already spent $1.00 on this game to save your hard earned buck and buy yourself a packet of Pez refills instead. For this game is perhaps the worst history has ever witnessed.

The concept is fair enough: collect treasure beneath the sea by harpooning exotic (and deadly) fish or snagging a really valuable prize protected by sea monsters at the ocean's floor. The concept. Ha. That's where the thrills end and the problem begins… that’s about one second after you press reset to start the game.

You see, there's almost no redeeming features to Skindiver, and I tried really hard to find one. The graphics are just awful - you're supposedly underwater but its more like a crowded fish tank. The huge fish take up too much of the screen, leading to design flaw #1: it takes too long to find a "safe spot" in the water to jump into. The diver automatically sinks a third of the way into the ocean outside of the player's control. If a fish touches you during this time, you die. You can wait for that perfect moment, but it doesn't make any sense, since you're not losing points or air - just your own precious time! To add to the poor graphics, there's poor animation - mostly everything has exactly two frames of it. The designer tried to add some scenery by putting turtles at the bottom of the ocean but instead of moving they "blink" in and out of place, much like Samantha from Bewitched.

Fortunately, all televisions have a volume knob so it's pretty easy to remove the grating theme song and unrealistic game sounds. It's so very bad. For example, when you are killed by a fish there's a huge explosion! What, the fish set off a bomb inside its stomach? Now THAT would be a game! So Skindiver gets a big fat ONE in the sound category, which is ONE better than the rating would be if I were to score it on with the volume turned on. Get my point?

Last, and least, is the gameplay itself. Wow... it's really hard to relate just how bad it is in words alone. There are so many problems. There's that thing where you have to wait to dive off into a clearing in the ocean, mentioned earlier. The sprite collision always works against you - if you're even CLOSE to a fish, you die, but if your harpoon is ONLY close to a fish, it passes harmlessly through. The scoring system is insane. You never HAVE to go for the big prize. Just clear the first screen of fish, position yourself at the bottom, and hit new ones as they appear on the screen (one every five seconds or so). When air is getting low, collect your points. Repeat as often as necessary - until you fall asleep, basically. The first screen is really easy if you're patient. The second screen, where the sea monsters and big treasure are, is much harder since you don't have a weapon and there's a badly designed "maze" to negotiate (complete with more sprite collision problems). This thing was definitely slapped together.

Although 3 'different' companies released this game, Panda's games are the NTSC versions of Sancho's; Froggo actually re-released this years later.  Scuba Diver (Panda) - Skindiver (Sancho) - Sea Hunt (Froggo).  It's a complete piece of crap under any name. If you're a collector, find the Sancho version and then bury it somewhere where you'll never accidentally play it. Then calmly and quietly check off the game in your DP Guide and move on. I can only hope you didn't have to pay too much for ANY version of this lame title!


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Last updated: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 05:17 PM